JUNE 23, 2005
The fans respond, Part 4
We asked F1 fans for their opinions about what happened at Indianapolis. Here is what they think:
Why did all the Michelin runners do the parade lap and then retire? From what I understand the parade lap is part of the race, so all of the cars started the race. If I remember correctly back to when (I think it was) Arrows left the circus half way through the season - there's financial penalties if a team does not start the race - could this be why they all did the parade lap?
As for FIA calling all the Michelin runners before them. I'm trying to find the quote but I'm sure that after the Raikkonen incident at the European GP, the FIA sent out a letter to all the teams saying that if their cars were unsafe that they should withdraw the car. Isn't that precisely what they all did? The tyres (according to the manufacture) were not safe and so the cars were withdrawn. If the FIA are mad enough to impose penalties against the teams then the sport will have lost another fan. As for the FIA suggesting that the Michelin teams should just slow down around the banked bend - I would imagine that would be highly dangerous. Surely a recipe for a major accident.
Kevin Santos-Trew, UK
This sport as lost touch with its fans, while this is to some extent forgivable in respect of the teams who are most likely pre-occupied with the day to day business of running a racing team, there is no excuse for this to be the case for the governing body as well. The problems of the teams verses the "business managers" are well documented, but what really concerns me is that the fans have no realistic representation in any area of the decision making process, the farce that was Indianapolis 2005 shows that the FIA seems to care more about maintaining its unbending position rather than finding a compromise solution to prevent the fans being disappointed. This was a finger up to the fans from the FIA in the most blatant manner. Part of the function of the position of president of any organization is to show strong and equitable leadership. If the current president is incapable, or unwilling to apply such skills to his post and to act to protect the best interests of the fans then he should be removed. If the governing body is unwilling to act on this, then that body is similarly discredited, and we arrive at the point where the very existence of the FIA itself is called into question. Guess what? We are there already, and as a body of fans we are wondering if in fact the FIA is a fit body to govern this sport. As a body of fans, we are weary of seeing autocratic decisions being handed by this allegedly democratic body. We are sick of seeing our views ignored. We are angry that this sport seems to have lost sight of the fact that without us, its audience, it has no reason to exist at all. A split is becoming inevitable, and sad to say it is probably in the best interests of the sport if it means that the power base that is currently being abused by a few tired old minds is destroyed. The status quo cannot exist much longer, not if the sport is to survive in any form.
Cris Page, UK
F1 is no longer - and has not for some time been - a sport. It is a multi billion dollar business in which the product is a sports based marketing system. The main teams excepting Ferrari are not happy with the distribution of funds and decision making power in the existing business and so are threatening to take their ball home ie. starting a competing business. They believe as do a lot of fans that there is a bias in the FIA. They want an independant management or more likely a management system which they cam influence more than the present system so they gain an advantage (or a level playing field depending on your view). Ferrari want the status quo as it gives them an advantage. Some of the teams have gone so far away from the sporting heritage of F1 that winning is now more important than racing hence the refusal to compromise in the USA. The "sport" is now so unimportant because winning is so lucrative. The FIA started all of this money talks twaddle because it (Bernie) saw how much money there was to be made from the TV viewers watching F1. This was supposed to be in the interests of the teams but it is Bernie who has become the billionaire and the sport that has suffered the consequences. In order to make the sport the winner the money makers have to be the losers and then decisions will be made which put the sport first and not the business. The Ferrari team and the FIA - or at least the individuals who made the decision that there should be no compromise to allow a race - bear at least as much if not more responsibility than the errant tyre maker for the lack of a race in the USA.
Richard Murray, UK
You asked for sensible suggestions, unfortunately there is not a sensible attitude in the halls of F1 right now. It happens in every business, at one time or another, and it's known as a "power struggle". The only way to remove the stalemate here, is to force the intransigent individuals from power. In the corporate world, the directors can do that. How it works in FIA, FOM, and F1, I cannot rationalise, but if the sport is to thrive, heads must roll, so that commonsense can surface. The issues at the USGP, were probably not avoidable, although more testing should have been done during the week prior to the race. Mistakes will happen, and Michelin have accepted that responsibility. But the onus of presenting a show ( which is what F1 is all about) rests with the governing body, who are the only group who can "bend" the rules. Like NASCAR, and the tribulations with which they are sometimes faced, discussions between all parties involved and a swift, logical, practical solution must be found, or the paying public will fade away. Unless all parties face inwards at the negotiating table, we're not going to see much improvement.
As an American fan of Formula 1 since the 1960s, I'm saddened by what has happened to the sport in recent times. I can recall some great races, great drivers, great cars, and most especially the wonderful festive atmosphere at Watkins Glen. I know that those days will never return, but I think there are things that can be done to improve and energize the situation - particularly in the US. As far as the US is concerned, it's taking nothing away from Bernie to comment that the venue for the US GP is all wrong - and it stems from a serious lack of understanding of American society and demographics. Indianapolis is Middle America, NASCAR and Indy country. F1's natural market will be found on one of the coasts - probably cosmopolitan, car-oriented California. Success is far more likely to be found there - as well as money, by the way. I also think that the FIA has overstepped its natural function by the rigidly detailed nature of its rules, dictating everything from tire choice to engine design. Obviously it needs to be concerned with fairness and safety, but I think the sport - the competition side of things - would benefit from a lot less committee and a lot more individual initiative - inspirational genius, if you will. For example, as far as engines are concerned, a limit of, say, 2.5 liters, or even 2 liters, normally aspirated. And let individual teams decide from there - so that we might see, for example, everything from a V-8 through a 12 cylinder boxer. Maybe even an H-16! And I'd like to see a bit more guts and glory rather than the carefully orchestrated corporate stuff so common today. A couple of Jack Brabhams and John Surtees, willing to speak their minds and piss people off, would go a long way to bringing back some of the missing spirit. And a home-grown genius like Colin Chapman would be very welcome. I have a feeling that most of those guys wouldn't find a happy home in the current world of F1. It was also common at that time for spectators to wander in and out of the (common) garage used by the teams (except Ferrari, who were a bit special even then and had their own garage in town, away from the track). People got up close to the cars and took photos of brand new engines, chatted with mechanics when they weren't too busy, etc. It felt as though you were part of the action. As I said, not that I expect those days to come back again, but in recent years when I've attended F1 races they've felt like distant spectacles, and for the most part you get a better view watching on television. Watching a small section of track through a chain-link fence is not generally worth $150 per person.
David Gometz, Prague, Czech Republic
Sunday evening I came home from a wonderful day of boating at the lake to settle down and watch a great race (recorded). I found myself sitting there wondering what the Hell was going on. I thought that the FIA, and it's people were intelligent enough to write rules and penalties for all the situations. Apparently, they can write rules but not include penalties that would allow the race to be run. These people need to understand that the fans are the only reason sponsors pay money to the teams for advertising on the cars. Without paying fans, these people will have to go out and get a real job like the rest of us. I know that F1 has always been great at shooting itself in the foot, I just didn't know it could shoot both feet with one shot. For such a group of people to be constantly talk about growing F1 in America, they really blew it. The damage may be repaired in about 30 years, but I'll be gone by then!
W J Salas, Lawrenceville, Georgia
It is unbelievable that Max Mosley is in collusion with Ferrari against the rest of the manufacturers. Rules are to be guidelines that guarantee first at all safety, then a competitive environment and a great show for the fans and all I can see here is just a game where all teams are heavily penalized every time they "break a rule" but Ferrari is never penalized. Ferrari has a special contract, his majesty Schumi-Ferrari only driver (the other is there just to complete the team) is allowed to do whatever it takes to win and Max Mosley hates all manufactures (except Ferrari). Mosley must leave. The sport must be in the hands of the people who is participating in it. Why if nine out of 10 agree about something somebody from the FIA cannot agree? This is not helping the sport, Australia was a shame, all 10 competitors agreed to let Minardi use its old car but FIA say no, and now this? What is next? This is madness.
Carlos Marin, Texas, USA
I'm a competitor, committee person, part time official of 25 years, every year I'm less inclined to officiate, as even in Australia the limit of liability, following the rules and not considering the show has become paramount. Is it society looking for accountability? Is it the fans who what compensation in the event of injury? The greedy people running the F1 show are not worth a penny if they could not see the wood for the trees and broker some form of event. It is a sport after all, in front of many trying to get the most patronage. I continue to have the a feeling that the red team's support for a solution would have helped. If everybody involved had come up with a solution after a yack in the back of one of the trucks, surely Charlie Whiting would implement any solution.
Stephen Craig, Melbourne, Australia
Formula 1 would have been sitting in a much better place if it wasn't for journalist like the ones who write the Racereports on GrandPrix.com making it appear as if it was sitting in another very precarious place ever since 2002. You state that you'll are supplier of the motorsport database to the FIA which means you must know a hell of alot about the so called FIA-Ferrari connection. Sometimes suggesting that the rules were tailor made for Ferrari or even more ridiculous, that they wrote the rules themselves. If so I'm quite sure Ross Brawn & co would have been fired by now for writing such rules and changing them every year! You views provide no incentive for the teams to beat Ferrari "Racing". Michelin Race Tyre 2003 - Illegal - FIA/Ferrari's fault. Michelin Race Tyre 2005 - Dangerous - FIA/Ferrari's fault Isn't it great to have someone to blame. Ironically, Schumacher and the Marenello teams poor form thus far has been ridiculed down to every aspect of the team and Bridgestone tyres. The FIA issued a letter to both tyre comanies post Nurburgring to ensure safe tyres are supplied. It is clear that it wasn't Ferrari's poor form that resulted in new championship leaders but, Michelin clear compromise on safety for performance, while Bridgestone played safe but was interpreted as a joke. Raikonen suffered at the Nurburgring Michelin nor the press (including your reports) bothered as another Michelin team and driver picked up the ball. Come USA and Michelin is aware that all of their teams could suffer the same fate as the incident at the Ring. What do they do? Literally blackmail the FIA into inserting a ridiculous chicane thereby altering the circuit profile making it more dangerous as neither the Bridgestone nor Michelin drivers would have done a single test lap on. And according to your report Michelin made a mistake, yes, but they also came up with a "solution" that was rejected by Ferrari. Ingenious Journalism! It's more than pathetic, its akin to a soccer team struggling to score a goal and thus threaten to boycott if the opposition's goalpost is not made larger. With your incredible experience did you ever think that a solution could be to avoid Turn 13 and use the wide pit lane at Indy every lap? I wonder what the race report here would have said if Ferrari and Bridgestone requested three extra "warmup laps" before their actual qualifying laps to get their tyres to work. Michelin and its partners need to be docked of championship points by the FIA. If you cant stomach that then you ought to packup and leave and cover IRL. But put the facts out not your extremists views.
I for one am done with F1 after watching 140,000 plus fans get the short end of the stick that was enough for me. I had no problem after lap six to turn to Fox and watch NASCAR. Unfortunately , the 140,000 fans at Indy lost everything they had. They pretty much had to eat those tickets, hotel bills, flights, food. Not to mention, it takes a commitment to make a race weekend like that, something these fans won't forget for quite sometime. How could F1 shoot theirselves in the foot this way.
J. Philip Johnston, Mt. Olive, Louisiana
There were compromises available for the Indy race. Some, if implemented, would have unfairly penalized those teams which had safe equipment - Ferrari, Jordan, and Minardi. Others would have placed a penalty on the teams which brought defective equipment to the track. The obvious selection from the above two choices is the latter. This cannot be disputed using any sound logic. Max Mosley simply stated this as well, and offered that those teams which came ill-prepared to race through Turn 13 at speed, could slow down for that one corner. He offered FIA assistance in speed management monitoring. Unfortunately, the "egos" of Messrs. Dennis, Williams and Briatore torpedoed this approach, with the smaller fish following their lead. Thus, when Mosley laid the blame at the feet of the teams and Michelin, he was correct, regardless of what one thinks of his "one tire" rule etc. (I happen to think the one tire rule, as well as treaded tires, are ludicrous, but that is not the point of this specific argument.). That the Michelin tire company is complicit in this problem should be obvious when one considers the performance of their tire this season against the erstwhile Bridgestone. One doesn't need to be a tire engineer to know that the tire equation is performance vs. durability/safety. Michelin's meteoric rise in the performance spec this season heralded a tire construction which was pushing safe limits. Indeed, the FIA recently "warned" Michelin in writing regarding just such a practice. Is the problem in F1 solvable? Maybe not, given the current players. Teams that boycott are reprehensible given a alternative. This was a slam against the FIA - fans be damned, and it should never be forgotten who played the trump card. Naively, I would think that both the FIA and the team directors need to be chastised and overhauled. Champ Car anyone??
I don't think that the removal of Max Mosley will solve the problem (although it helps a little bit). The FIA is only a part of the problem. F1 nowadays is not a sport (why do we keep calling it a sport), it is a multi billion euro business ran by lawyers (i.e. Mosley) and businessman. The real petrolheads are long gone. All of these parties (teams, FIA, FOA, Manufacturers, etc) make secret deals. Nobody knows exactly what the deals are, but everybody knows that nobody agrees to it. So you get a fight between frustrated businessman over the heads of the fans who bring in the cash. So all parties are to blame. Take for instance Ferrari. Why does Ferrari have privileges that other teams don't have ( for example regarding testing and their share of the money)? Why don't they make a gesture to all the others and give up their special privileges? The only solution is to make the business aspect of F1 transparent, fair and equal to all parties, so they can stop arguing and start racing again. Where is the strong man who can make that happen?
Norbert Nunnink, Netherlands
As a 30+ year fan of F1 it is sad that I will no longer watch or attend. Each party is to blame. The current situation where there can never be agreement (or anything close) among the multi millionaire egos, the FIA, promoters, manufacturers, and engine suppliers is reprehensible. Why should I spend my time and money? Up until the farce of Sunday I would rise on Sunday mornings and watch the race with a nice cup of coffee and move on to enjoy the rest of my day. I have attended every US GP at Indy. No longer will this happen. I will take my dollars and support to non-FIA sanctioned events. The American LeMans series, Champ Car, and I especially plan to once again begin attending the club races I once attended regularly. These avenues are open and appreciative of my time and money. The racing is usually much better also. Who out there wouldn't agree that a pack of Formula Fords nose to tail for 16 laps isn't exciting. To Hell with the spoiled brat rich kids. Mosley et al deserve the end of the sport. He and the others seem to have never realized they need the fans and the American fans much more than we need them. Have fun in the Third World countries boys.
Tim Hall, USA
What I'd like to point out, is that fact that there was an indisputable safety issue, with two crashes that proved beyond doubt, it wasn't just someone being alarmist. When Ayrton Senna was killed, the FIA was making new rules every other day for a while, because no one was going to argue against safety. The FIA position of denying any compromise's on safety grounds, is hypocritical in light of what they did in the weeks after Senna's death, and clearly shows that there is an agenda behind all this, that hasn't been made public yet. The Michelin teams at least made gestures publicly of being willing to compromise for the sake of the fans. The FIA did not. Of course even if their resolve had weakened, Ferrari would have not have allowed them to backslide, so it was a pretty hopeless situation. Personally I think this whole episode may have a "silver lining". The obscene amounts of money poured into F1 has really wrecked it as far as fans are concerned. If this were to drive out a lot of the money, in the long run, that would be a very good thing for the sport.
Laurie Button, Ottawa, Canada
Nobody thought the one-tire rule would be so problematic. In 2004, when this rule was announced as part of the 2005 regulations, nobody thought that Raikkonenęs accident, which could have very well been much worse, would happen, or the US GP fiasco. The solution, however, is very simple: forget about the one-tire rule and revert to the much safer old rule. F1 has done it before, in fact it did it a few weeks ago when the Saturday/Sunday qualifying idea was scrapped. What I mean is that if something in F1 suddenly seems like a bad idea, just change it, or go back to how it was before until a better idea comes up. F1 needs to be more nimble and less bureaucratic. Also, it needs to be humble enough to say "Well, as you can see, it turns out this set of rules for this particular area sucks, what were we thinking? Letęs change it".
The FIA has not got the trust of the fans or the teams. That being the case I think it would be a good idea for Mr. Mosley to leave. Even if it's not his fault (which in a way I think some of the trouble is) it might be a way to remove that person whom upon so many have heaped blame for just about everything that's been bad with F1. Another idea might be to have all the team principals in the Michelin using teams to step down. I know which I expect to happen first, even if even that seem unlikely.
In my opinion the answer to that question is quite simple: let Formula 1 be Formula 1 again! Away with stupid, restrictive rules. Away with nitpicking about cos treductions. F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of motorsports, the pinnacle of technology. It's an expensive sport, and if you can't afford to play the game, you don't belong in it. The FIA should only alter rules to guarantee safety for the drivers and public. If a Ferrari or Toyota want to spend in excess of $500m, let them. Money does not buy good results. Intelligence, strategy, good drivers and drive to win does. Let them change tires. Let them change them as much as they want. Every stop costs about 30secs in and out, so if they think they can get away with it, let them.
Yes, Max Mosley needs to go. So does Bernie Ecclestone. They have reduced F1 to a shadow of what it used to be. It's not much more than a souped up GP2, and if the new regulations are to be implemented, it will not be much more than Formula Ford. F1 should be the best of the best. The top drivers with the top cars build by the top engineers racing the fastest races on the planet. Yes there are risks. Yes, it can be dangerous. But all the drivers are race drivers. They accept the risks and they get paid top dollar to do it. Give the money back to the people that create it: the teams. Let them use it to improve themselves, make better cars and increase the competition. Let the FIA govern so the sport stays a sport and be an independent body. Let them make sure the safety is there and show they are an organisation for the sport, not the other way around.
Gijs van Dijk, The Netherlands
For the health of the sport and the best interest of all involved Max Mosley MUST go. He has shown that he cares nothing for the fans that love the sport, the teams that bust their patooties year in and year out for the sport or the drivers that live their lives and risk their lives for the love of the sport. He forgets that were it not for all these "little insignificant people" that he wouldn't have his empire.
Lisa Brown, Denver, Colorado
There once was a time when the sport was Grand but thanks to the upper 1% that control the sport, we are left with the events that went on in Indianapolis.The upper 1% has long forgotten the days of saving for months the buy tickets for the race in some far away town or city with the hope of seeing your favorite drive fight for the win. The 1% needs to remember that they wouldn't be where they are today without the hard earned money that we pump into Formula 1. After the events at Indianapolis the sport has lost its luster, appeal and as a result is no longer Grand.
James Brown, USA
The Ferrari/Bernie/FIA marriage has been evident for some time and on Sunday the teams got an opportunity to legally show their disapproval . This is no more than history repeating itself . Back around 1982 Mr. E took control of the sport after a few cars raced around Imola on a strange way like Michael would sa . Somebody else will take control this time and things will go on. The cow has been milked, it will be sold and somebody will make her fat again. The teams pulling in on Sunday has to do with safety, but deep down it is a show of disapproval and disrespect to the tripartite commission. Of course the kingdom has responded by calling all proletariat to the king's court to answer for their rebellion. The Crown cannot be spat on by a bunch of common millionaires that cannot understand the order of the world. In the meantime the High Commission has conducted a poll so the common man can opinionate about the rules of the Kingdom. This, of course, is designed just to keep the peasants from burning the King's Castle to the ground. Unfortunately for them, this all happened in America where we have what I call a "capitalist democracy". In other words F1 has way too many paying customers for its arrogance. They shall be reminded where the money comes from immediately.
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